SIMN’s Remarks at the Monthly NGO Committee on Migration

On March 9th, 2017, SIMN was present at the monthly meeting of the NGO Committee on Migration. The specific topic of the meeting was the impact of SDGs implementation thus far and how best civil society organizations can leverage the Global Compact on Migration negotiations to transform the SDGs from promise to reality.

SIMN’s Executive Director, Fr. Leonir Chiarello, addressed the audience with the following remarks[1]:

For those who do not know us, the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) is a network of more than 250 programs serving migrants around the world and operated by the Missionaries of St. Charles, Scalabrinians. We have been involved in the process of definition of the Global Compact on Migration with other civil society organizations, including the NGO Committee on Migration, and we hope to strength our collaboration in this process.

From our perspective, the Global Compact addresses two main targets of the Sustainable Development Goals: 10.7 and 8.7.  As you know, 10.7 calls for policies that “facilitate the orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.”  This is really what the Global Compact is all about.  Second, 8.7 also should be a central point of the Compact, as it addresses forced labour:  “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

Given these two targets, SIMN and its members, including CMS, will focus on the following three main areas of issues during the process of definition of the Global Compact on Migration:

  1. Main contents of the Global Compact (what we want to achieve through the Compact)

1.1.- Family Reunification:  From the perspective of SIMN/CMS, family unity should be the cornerstone of every immigration system and the governance of migration.  We are seeing, however, a focus on employment visas at the expense of family-based visas in many countries.  Also, irregular migration facilitates family separation, as fathers and sons and even women and children are forced to migrate to survive.  Family members try to reunify with family in a destination country, and the lack of legal avenues is one cause of this phenomenon.  The New York Declaration mentions family reunification, but only in passing.  We need to lift up families, otherwise it will not be highlighted.

1.2.- Children:  We see children in our shelters who are vulnerable.  We want to have the international community end child detention, end child labour and child trafficking, and protect unaccompanied alien minors.  The Global Compact should have a separate section devoted to the rights of children.

1.3.- Labor/Forced Labor:  We see migrants who are searching for employment to support their families.  This should not be a crime.  We want nations to commit to legal channels for low-skilled workers to migrate in a safe, orderly, and regular manner.  Such visas should protect their rights in the workplace and give them an opportunity for permanent residency over time, including their families.  Moreover, forced labour is an extreme form of human trafficking and there should be targets to eliminate it, consistent with the SDGs.

1.4.- Integration/Social Inclusion:  In the Global Compact, member states should commit to the social inclusion of new migrants, so they are not excluded from certain benefits, such as health-care and social services, if needed, plus a chance to become full members of a society/nation.  This is a sleeper issue that advocates should push forward, otherwise an underclass of persons would be created.

1.5.- Responsibility-Sharing vs. Deterrence Policies:  We are seeing around the world deterrence policies to stem large movements of refugees and migrants.  The EU-Turkey agreement to stem Syrians, the US-Mexico collaboration to stem Central Americans, and Australia’s interdiction policies and offshore processing.  We should oppose these policies in the strongest terms and argue for a responsibility-sharing mechanism to address large movements in a systematic and just manner.  We should fight against language that condones these deterrence policies.

1.6.- Gaps in Protection:  We should fight for language to protect and assist forced migrants, especially the most vulnerable, who may not qualify for international protection, such as persons fleeing natural disaster/climate change, or migrants in countries in crisis.  The Nansen and MICIC initiatives provide appropriate language to include in the Global Compact.

  1. Juridical structure of the Compact – Binding or Non-Binding Document (how achieve the Compact’s commitments)

We believe that the Global Compact on Migration must have an accountability mechanism, so that targets are set and member states are compelled to meet them by a certain time.  The Paris Agreement on Climate Change is an appropriate model, where certain provisions were binding and goals were set for nations to meet.  An accountability mechanism could take several forms, including a progress report each year or monitoring by IOM/Secretary-General.  Another non-binding instrument would not be helpful.

  1. Institutional responsibilities for the implementation of the Compact (who will be responsible for the implementation of the Compact)

In addition of a range of principles, commitments and understandings among Member States regarding international migration that the Global Compact would set out, and the accountability mechanism that we mentioned above, we believe that the Global Compact must define the institutional responsibilities for its implementation, including the thematic coherence and geographic consistency of its application at international, regional, sub-regional and national levels.

These are the major issues we see in the Global Compact—I am sure there are more.  I know that Ambassador Camacho came before you, in a prior meeting, and suggested we not overreach on what we want, but we also must stand up for our positions as well.  We look forward to working with you on these and other issues involving the Global Compact on Migration. Thank you.

[1] These remarks were prepared by Kevin Appleby, Director of International Policy of the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) and the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), in collaboration with Leonir Chiarello, Executive Director of the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN).